I get envious. I hate to admit it. Envy’s such a low-down, ego-driven emotion, but sometimes the best I can do is admit I’m feeling it and maybe ask god to help me stop. Lately, god’s been doing just that – showing me how little I know.
Envy can happen only when we compare our insides to other people’s outsides. And what a beautiful (AA) phrase that is, too! We get lonely, assuming others are capering about with friends. We scroll bored and depressed through Facecrack, convinced everyone else is reveling in a kick-ass life. Always, we imagine other people have it easier.
In my drunken 20s and 30s, even after my Near Death Experience showed me otherwise, I clung to an objectivist, mechanical view of the universe that kept things pretty straightforward. But as the years brought on a series of paranormal experiences – knowing stuff I shouldn’t know, seeing stuff I shouldn’t see – I had to expand my realm of possibility. Quantum physics increasingly shows researchers what an elusive, pliable, witness-influenced phenomenon “reality” can be. And the spirit world is constantly showing me the same.
For me, it’s no longer beyond the bounds of possibility that when I pray for help with a specific character defect, god will provide the grist for just that – if I’m willing to perceive it.
So, anyway – I asked god to remove my envy. It had been plaguing me particularly since I brought home my alcoholic ex-boyfriend’s cell phone and discovered his extreme, prolonged deception around his sex addiction. I felt like an idiot for having banked all my love in a rotten vessel. And all around me, it seemed, were couples savoring romantic bliss.
For reasons I can’t explain, my comparisons swarmed around a particular friend. She and I had known each other only faintly from ballet class on the day when, less than a month after my horrific break up, I sat in the Department of Motor Vehicles, skinny from insomnia/inability to eat and still subtly shaking, waiting to renew my driver’s license. In walked gorgeous Jane with her two beautiful children, so I waved her over. Ten minutes later I knew that Jane, just like me, was a sober alcoholic who’d had her kids late in life. She’d been married 10 years to a wonderful non-alcoholic man.
I trusted her. By the time I left with my license, I’d confided the entire gruesome betrayal story, exposing all my wounds down to details I’d told no one else. For some of the lewder texts and fetishes I’d seen on my boyfriend’s phone, I even spelled out words while her wholesome preschoolers played nearby. Jane’s stricken face showed genuine empathy. Even so, I berated myself afterwards for sharing TMI: “Why did you do that?! You’re such a freak!”
Days, weeks, and months later, Jane’s husband would stop by our class to pick up their kids, the two of them exchanging a brief kiss. Mind you, I have plenty of friends in happy relationships, but for some reason that image, or even the thought of it, would spur me to beat myself up mercilessly: I’d fucked up my whole life by choosing the wrong man. If only I’d chosen more wisely, held out for a normie, found a good, church-going father like that, I’d have the happy intimacy Jane enjoyed! Instead, I had nothing.
We never have a clue what’s coming. Last week as I arrived at class, Jane rushed up to me in tears. “Thank god you’re here!” she said. “My husband’s been cheating on me for years and years! He’s a sex addict!”
I hugged her. My heart flared with empathy as I understood this bomb had blasted not only her heart, as in my case, but her entire hearth, home, and family beyond anything I could imagine. Still, the knife of betrayal – that I did know. I looked into her eyes and spoke the words that had saved my sanity: “His sickness has nothing to do with you.” We went to a coffee shop where I sat and listened while ‘crazy’ words spilled from her mouth — words of rage and agony and violence! I nodded with recognition at even the harshest threats of retaliation. I remembered that white rage. Because when everything falls apart, there are no rules – except to stay sober.
To help Jane do that, I made up my mind to offer everything I could.
Love is the ultimate risk. There’s no protecting yourself. You open your heart and let someone live in there. The more you love them, the deeper into your core their roots grasp. So if a day comes that those roots are suddenly torn out, chunks of your soul get ripped out with them. You die a little bit. This is true for all of us.
What I’ve learned in AA is that nothing I’ve felt, thought, or done is unique to me. Nothing! In meetings we reveal our knotty, crisscrossed under-stitching instead of the smooth embroidery we show the outside world. That’s how we learn to trust each other. God reminds me over and over: in spite of whatever differing externals ego and envy harp on, our pains and our joys are the same. Helping one another through them, whether in ways big or small, is indeed the ultimate purpose of being alive. Nothing matters more.
Jane is a strong woman. She’ll walk through this hell, and she’ll do it without a drink. And I’ll walk with her as much as I can. I remember all the little kindnesses friends offered that helped me through my darkest days – frequent texts, maybe a positive CD, a bouquet, and most of all, listening. Today, those are things I can do for Jane.
Why did I decide on that particular day, that particular hour, to head for that particular DMV to renew my license? Why did Jane? Was it merely by chance we shared the hour that bonded us? You can think what you like, but I believe god sows at our feet the seeds of all we need to heal each other.
Everything is in divine order.
6 responses to “Insides to Outsides: Envy vs. Compassion”
Thank you. This challenges me to love in a case where I intellectually want to Resist, protect- to be Right. Thanks. Michele
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Just what I needed to hear today!! I’m still amazed at the miracle of “coincidence”. I’m taking my Son, who’s 44 today, to lunch for his birthday! He was 10 when I was blessed with the precious gift of sobriety!! Keep sharing…Thank you, Ann
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Really needed to hear this today! I am still a work in progress! Keep your words coming! Bless you!
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Good to hear from you, Lynne. So glad you’re still sober and growing!
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